All things being equal, we suspect drivers in the Subaru BRZ and Mazda MX-5 would prefer twisting canyons to the sticky straightaway of a prepped drag strip. That doesn't mean an old-fashioned drag race isn't fun, and we've seldom seen these two lightweight sports cars battle it out for quarter-mile dominance. This video from Motor gives us no less than six races, and each one is delightfully close.
On paper, Subaru holds a slight advantage. Its 2.4-litre naturally aspirated flat-four generates 228 bhp and 184 lb-ft of torque. The MX-5 isn't quite as stout, posting 181 bhp and 151 lb-ft from its 2.0-litre four-cylinder mill. However, the Mazda is lighter by upwards of 180 kg, creating a near-equal power-to-weight ratio. And both cars utilise power the old-fashioned way – sending it rearward through a manual transmission.
To make sure there's no dispute as to which car is faster, we're treated to dig and roll races. It begins with a standing start, which has both cars dead even through nearly half-track. The Mazda actually takes a slight advantage on the start, with the Subie driver overcooking the launch just a bit then banging the rev limiter on a critical shift. However, the BRZ's bigger engine pulls through on the far end of the track. It wins by roughly half a car length – not a big win, but a win.
Two more standing races take place, with each driver improving their launch technique. The results are the same, however. Through half-track it's neck and neck, but on the big end, the BRZ's power is too much for the MX-5. After a close first race, the Subie stretches the win to over a car length for the last two. Advantage BRZ, but this contest features six races. How does it shake out with both cars starting from a roll?
Gallery: 2022 Subaru BRZ: First Drive
A 31-mph target speed is established for the final three races. With the launch negated, the BRZ's power advantage is further established and yes, it's another win for Subaru. The gap isn't a large one, however, and the second race sees the MX-5 take a slight jump at the beginning. It's not much, but it's enough to hold off a charging BRZ to give Mazda fans a win. The last race sees an even start and another Subaru victory.
Yes, power matters in a straight line and Subaru won this contest. But what about lap times on a twisting road course? That's a race for another video, on another day.